The Making of House of Doctors

‘The most fundamental principle of medicine is Love.’
—Paracelsus (1493–1541)

 

Chronicles of a Gynaecologist had been out for more than a year now and I was basking in the success of becoming a doctor-author. My first book focussed on two sections of society I fought passionately for, women and doctors. The book was about the gynaecologist and her patient. But, what made a doctor, and particularly a gynaecologist?

‘You want to become a doctor?’ I remembered my relatives looking shocked! A thin, small-built girl, who easily got scared by just about everything, no one believed I had it in me to become a doctor.

‘I wouldn’t be touching lizards and cockroaches.’ I would defend.

‘You will need to do surgery, deal with blood.’ Their eyes widened as they recalled my histrionics during vaccinations.

My immature mind got influenced by the doctors I came across. Their world seemed so glamorous. I gave up on my dreams to become an engineer and my father gave up on his of seeing me as a bureaucrat, at least temporarily. But then the next few years took me on a fascinating, whirlwind of a journey. And, every other ambition of mine got trampled on this rollercoaster ride.

I wanted the world to know the metamorphosis and soon started writing my next manuscript, Anecdotes of a Medico. I wanted to share all that went behind making a doctor. From working with cadavers to real patients, from overbearing seniors to those who shaped your career, I wanted to deliver the truths that breathed behind the closed, sanitised walls of a hospital, exposing the sad realities that plague our society. These were troubled times, where so much was being said everywhere that ‘truth’ became a myth. The book would give a broad perspective of the factors that interplay in the making of a doctor.

Above all, I wanted this book to be a bridge between the medical and the non-medical world.

And, then one day I was invited by my alma mater, the Gajra Raja Medical College, Gwalior, to give of talk on my first book. I was overjoyed. It was a feeling of déjà vu, to take my book to where it all started, sharing with those who had been my co-passengers in this enlightening journey.

I met my head of department, my teachers and my seniors. The department of obstetrics and gynaecology! It was nostalgic. I was standing at that phase of life where I had left them years ago. I understood them more! My juniors had flourished over the years. So many memories came gushing. So many untold stories came rushing into my mind.

And, the old hospital building. . .it stared at me!

I was transported back. This place had single-handedly taken me away from everything safe and secure, everything I once believed in and sucked me like a tornado into a new world. A world infested with pain, suffering and disease; blood, gore and disbelief, a world inhabited by patients and doctors, nurses and staff. A world that made you its backbone, a world that clung on your shaky shoulders.

A world that challenged you as you struggled with stereotypes and misogyny. It frustrated as much with prejudices and the social bigotry as the fury wrecked by anaemia, haemorrhage, eclampsia and unsafe abortions. The pain of seeing young lives lost to preventable diseases left deep scars. The septic labour room and the eclampsia room still formed my worst nightmares! No wonder they keep cropping up prominently in my narratives.

Now, years later, after having moved to Delhi, whenever I see the same diseases surrendering in front of advancements in medicine and technology, better blood products and better intensive care, I get gripped with regret and an intense sense of loss.

And, I missed my emergency duties. The times when we were the unquestionable boss. There was something so comforting about seeing the hospitals at night, swathed in yellow light, minus the hustle bustle of the day. With relatives gone home and most patients sleeping; the emergency staff beating their biological clock and still looking energetic, the building looked almost inviting. At times the peace and serenity belied the tensions underneath as if the hospital wanted to forget its turbulent activities and sleep over its daylong turmoil. And, as one welcomed ‘life’ in the early hours after the night had ‘laboured’ long enough, nothing could beat the morning cup of tea!

The aroma of fresh tea intermingled with the flavour of duty of the past 24 hours, as we residents from different departments sneaked out to the tea stall just opposite the hospital gate, lingered in my memories.

With every nerve of the body crying ‘go to sleep’, barely after a two-hour break, we dragged our sleep-deprived yet widely awake minds to our assigned wards. Yet, nothing could measure up to the sense of accomplishment that an emergency duty imbibed.

The frequent tiffs with the administration still bring an indulgent smile on my face. Our blood boiled at the slightest provocation yet cooled down with just an affectionate pat. Always in the line of fire from seniors, teachers, administrators, and patients, yet we laughed freely and fought back fiercely. 

‘Aap duty pe sone ke liye aate hai (Do you come to sleep at work)?’ An elderly man in a cream kurta-pajama had once sneered down at our fellow resident. Tired after being on toes for more than 16 hours, he had decided to stretch his neck muscles at around 2 am. He had hardly rested his head on the desk when a bright light dazzled his tired eyes.

He flushed guiltily. Just his luck that a new, overzealous minister was on his nocturnal, surprise tour of the hospital. What better way to gain public mileage than by snooping on a doctor! It made great news for the next few weeks. The poor doctor was suspended. The residents who were the backbone of the hospitals were ridiculed and made scapegoats by the spineless politicians and an insensitive media. What followed was a strike down by the RDA (Resident Doctors’ Association) till the suspension was cancelled and the doctor reinstated.

The medicos were notorious for getting into a broil with just about anyone, the bureaucrats, the police or even the goons. We feared none! This was, after all, the land of the Chambal.

And it gave back so much more. It gave me the passion to stick to my conviction, the compassion to deal with disease and infirmities, the zeal to fight the Almighty, the steel to take on my destiny, the mettle to override my fears and insecurities, the nerve to hold back my tears and bid goodbye.

This place also gave me love, my life, and friends for a lifetime.

Post-graduation was a time of building relationships. I watched the corridors with awe. I had matched steps with Sameer, sneaked into his ward, held his hands and looked into his eyes with a promise. Dousing hopes of my parents to find a bureaucrat match for their daughter, I was rewriting my destiny on a blank sheet.

And I had laughed here with my friends—Kavya, Raj, Varun, Ranjan, Meera and Parul amongst many others! The silly banter, the juicy gossip, rushing off from the hospital to watch the first day-first show at the movies, sitting in the first row! I had evolved with them, cried out my disappointments over their shoulders, clasped their hand to tide over many a crisis. We had worked together as if driven, pitched against odds that tested every fibre of our body and had emerged victorious.

Between ignorant, innocent patients to the vindictive ones, between crumbling health infrastructure, dwindling resources to the tenacious, budding doctors, between bullying seniors to those who held your hands and taught, between friends and family who got sidelined to the ones who stood by you even in your worst ‘complications’; between the samosa and tea breaks to the forgotten lunches, between sleep-deprived nights to an all-time high of saving lives, between forgotten marriages to love blossoming in the wards. . .there was something that broke through. The first cry of ‘life’ as it opened its beautiful eyes!

And as we took our baby steps, the ‘hospital’ watched patiently and heralded the birth of a new being. A gynaecologist! 

These were my most cherished memories, my most prized possession. 

So, Anecdotes of a Medico took a backseat. This story had to be told first. My brush with this institution, the Kamla Raja Hospital and the department of obstetrics and gynaecology!

I entered again, the ‘House of Doctors’.  

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